Tech Pioneer to speak at UCCI Commencement



Tech Pioneer to speak at UCCI Commencement

Tom Jenkins says young people are in the perfect position to take financial and entrepreneurial risks and that the current market is filled with opportunities.

Jenkins, who ran one of the largest tech companies in the world for many years, will make that point April 24 when he addresses the graduands of the University College of the Cayman Islands at their commencement ceremony.

Jenkins was announced this week as the key note speaker for the ceremony.

A Canadian, Jenkins retired and moved permanently to Cayman in 2017. He still serves as chairman of the board of OpenText Corp., where he was CEO for more than a decade. He worked for OpenText for more than 20 years, starting in 1994, when the now $12 billion company, was a three-year-old fledgling tech start up. His list of accomplishments in the tech industry is a long one.

“Tom Jenkins is one of the most successful businessmen living in the Cayman Islands,” said UCCI President and CEO Stacy McAfee. “In the past several years, he has chosen to involve himself with UCCI to help promote career paths in computer and digital science. To have him as our commencement speaker is an honour.”

McAfee said the timing of Jenkins’ address is perfect for the current economic conditions.

“We all know how the pandemic has changed our work world,” she said, “shifting things into the digital and virtual worlds much more than before the Covid-19 outbreak. Much of that shift is likely to become the new normal in many industries and Tom is the perfect person to address the opportunities that may now be open to our graduates.”

Jenkins said the shift to working remotely opens new doors, particularly for places like Cayman.

“It’s a remarkable moment in human history,” Jenkins said. “Now the island has the whole world open to it.”

As long as Cayman has the technological tools and resources, he said, it can compete globally in the evolving market.

“The opportunity for Cayman is amazing. It can be on the same footing as a Singapore, a San Francisco or a Munich,” he said. “This whole idea of working from home is an unbelievable opportunity for Cayman.”

In addition, he believes the country is poised to develop its potential as a tech hub.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea for the island,” Jenkins said. “Cayman has all the components you need: a financial center, a university and a lifestyle that attracts entrepreneurs. I’ve met and talked with many of the entrepreneurs here and have done seminars on what it takes to create a tech industry incubator. There’s no reason Cayman can’t do that. In fact, it’s well on its way. All the building blocks are here. There’s no way it shouldn’t work.”

Jenkins speaks from experience. His working career was largely spent in the tech-heavy city of Waterloo. He worked on some of the earliest search engines, providing such programs for Netscape, Yahoo and IBM in the mid-1990s. OpenText was the first Canadian internet company to make an initial public offering on the NASDAQ stock exchange, and only the third to do so globally.

Jenkins is also chair of the World Wide Web Foundation, an international organization founded by the inventor of the web, Tim Berners Lee, and dedicated to providing web access to everyone.

After 30 years, we only went past 50 percent last year,” Jenkins said, adding that the continuing challenge is getting access to people in developing countries.

“Our second goal is to ensure we get the web that we want,” he said. “We establish things like digital human rights. The right to be forgotten, the right to safety.”

The agency acts as a bit of a policy broker.

“We try to create a common room where corporations, governments and NGOs can meet to work out policies such as digital human rights. There’s never a dull moment.”

Jenkins has also been deeply involved in education. He was the tenth chancellor of the University of Waterloo and is a former chair of the advisory council for the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary.

In addition, he was the founding chair of the National Research Council of Canada, the largest body dedicated to science and innovation within the Canadian government. And he is a commissioner of the Tri-Lateral Commission, an international think tank of business, academia and government dedicated to improving international policy and relationships.

“For us to have someone speak at our commencement ceremony who has such a varied and highly successful background provides our students with the inspiration that they too can accomplish remarkable outcomes in their lives,” President and CEO McAfee said. “I’m sure Tom’s address will have a great impact on our graduands.”

Jenkins said he hopes the students will take his example to heart.

“I’ve done everything in my career,” he said. “I’m happy to work with the university and be a mentor. But there is no next start up for me. That’s for this new generation.”

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